Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales : An Introduction

Sour beer. To be honest sour beer is a style of beer that Sommbeer simply doesn’t talk about enough.  Sours are super popular within the craft beer community and, for better or worse, it just seems to be a style that most of our contributors shy away from.  I really don’t have a good answer as to why this is.  More often than not when I try a sour beer I find interesting and unique qualities in them.  Is it my “go to” style of beer? The answer is no. However, there is no shortage of unique and funky things going on in the world of sour beer.  As a resident of Michigan one of the pioneers of sour beer, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, is right in my backyard. Over the years I’ve been to 2 of their 8 tap rooms and both have been very enjoyable trips. The atmosphere in both taprooms is very welcoming and the staff is super knowledgeable. Plus their pizza is amazing, but that’s a story for another time.  I’m writing this article in May of 2020, as a result of the Covid 19 situation taprooms are still closed. It’s a bummer, but I figured I would take the opportunity to take this time to talk about some of Jolly Pumpkin’s flagship beers that can help you get through a lengthy period of self isolation.  

The 3 beers we are going to check out are Bam Biēre, Calabaza Blanca,  and Hyrrokkin. Each one of these beers are a style of farmhouse ale but vary pretty drastically when it comes to flavor profile. On a side note, the artwork on each one of these cans is amazing. Really any label that comes out of Jolly Pumpkin is a work of art worthy of being framed and hung in any home bar. The Jolly Pumpkin web page does a really good job of highlighting this artwork too, even if you aren’t looking for the beer the page is worth checking out just to see the art on these labels. 

Bam Biēre is by far the Jolly Pumpkin beer that I see in stores the most often. Bam, which is named after the brewery dog, is a farmhouse saison that spends about 2 months in an oak barrel. The beer features Cascade & Crystal hops as well as a grain bill featuring Pilsner Malt, Pale Malt, Wheat Malt, Black Malt, Flaked Barley, & Crystal 75. Bam is a low calorie beer and as of April became available in cans year round. The beer pours with a beautiful foggy orange color and a light creamy head. On the nose I get a nice lemony and citrus smell that’s super fresh but not without a little bit of funk. The body on the beer is light with just a little bit of fizziness both of which make Bam very refreshing. The flavors I’m picking out are lemon, green apple, floral notes and just a hint of breadiness. Compared to a lot of sour beers I’ve tried this is very refined and approachable. Bam Biēre is quite possibly the perfect entry point for someone looking to ease their way into sour beer. 

Calabaza Blanca, aka “The White Pumpkin”, is a farmhouse witbier featuring tettnang hops and also spends 2 months in oak. The beer has a grain bill of Pilsner Malt, Wheat Malt, & Raw Wheat and is another beer in the Jolly Pumpkin profile that is low in calories. Calabaza Blanca pours a bright gold color with a white head that went up maybe two fingers deep. The nose has a nice freshness to it but I’m not getting a whole lot more from it. The flavors are very on point with this beer. You get a nice lemonly zestiness out of the beer with just a hint of pepper backing it up. Calabaza Blanca finishes with just a little funkiness and a malty backbone. This is a perfect summer beer, it’s bright and palatable without being heavy or overly boozy. Of the 3 beers I tried I found this to be the most approachable and easiest to drink. It takes a new spin on a classic style of witbier and makes use of some creative brewing at the same time.

Last but certainly not least is Hyrrokkin, a seasonal fruited oak- aged saison.  This beer spends 23 months in oak and features Perle, Centennial, Citra, Amarillo, & Simcoe hops.  Hyrrokkin has a grain bill of Pilsner & Raw Wheat and also features Blood Orange Puree & Ginger Juice. Hyrrokkin has a nice cloudy deep yellow pour with about a finger of white head that dissipated quickly. The nose on the beer is not abrasive, but the dominant note I’m getting is an earthy ginger smell. Much like the other two beers the body of Hyrrokkin is on the lighter side and I still found it to be a refreshing drink. The flavors are really interesting on this brew. Upfront I’m primarily getting ginger with just a hint of the oak and some herbal notes. It’s on the back end where the beer really shines. I get a really nice dank citrus finish, and the barrel comes back enhancing the malty biscuity flavor from the beer. 

“Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Seems people either love it or don’t understand it.”

The quote above is proudly displayed on Jolly Pumpkin‘s website. It makes sense. In a lot of ways people seem split on sour beer, and to be fair it’s not for everyone. When it comes to sour I consider myself a novice at best. I keep trying them but more often than not I find myself making my way back to my beloved pilsners and lagers. Still, the style does continue to peak my interest, and Jolly Pumpkin always has been at the forefront for the sour beer revolution. I look forward to making a return trip to their tap rooms in the near future, but in the mean time these canned beers made for an excellent Sunday afternoon.

John Fahrner

One thought on “Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales : An Introduction”

  1. Probably my favorite style is hyper traditional gueuze, but Belgian style sours are close behind. My favorite is Duchesse De Bourgogne, but I ran into a wonderful VanderGhinste Oud Bruin a month or so ago.

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